Minnesota has long been applauded as the lake capital of the midwest. With over 10,000 lakes state-wide, their license plates are adorned with the label “Land of 10,000 Lakes”.
What many do not realize, however, is that Minnesota is not, in fact, the true lake capital of the midwest. Wisconsin, Minnesota’s great neighbor to the east, has long prided themselves on a whopping 15,000 lakes spread within state lines.
One such proud Wisconsinite is Kristina Olson, a senior Psychology major at UW-Eau Claire.
Armed with a love for her local nature and a sense of the pollutant danger currently facing a large majority of our wildlife, Olson teamed up with the Chetek Lakes Protection Association (CLPA) to fulfill her service-learning.
Originally founded more than thirty years go in 1985, CLPA is a non-profit organization based in Chetek, Wisconsin, that focuses primarily on: “preserv[ing] and protect[ing] the Chetek Lakes, and their surroundings, and to enhance the water quality, fishery, boating, safety, and aesthetic value of the Chetek Lakes, as a public recreational facility for today and for future generations.”
Olson has played an integral role across a variety of facets at CLPA. Originally a member of the board as a director, she soon moved up to president, and is now serving as secretary.
Throughout her many roles of service, Olson has undoubtedly aided the organization in meeting many community needs. However, perhaps her most notable contribution has been the creation and delivery of a $32,000 grant for improving community lakeshores.
“The most notable [moment] has been discussing with grant participants the potential benefit of these restoration and protective measures that we can take to buffer the lake against our inevitable human activity. It all starts with the individual, and hopefully educates and informs others so that more lakeshore owners join in the effort; therefore, protecting the valuable resource that is our lakes,” Olson reflected.
For Olson, one of the most inspiring aspects of her service-learning project has been being able to witness firsthand just how passionate the community members are about protecting our lakes.
“Everyone was excited about the potential benefits of the project and were so happy to join in the effort. I always expected more rebuff or hesitation, but everyone’s fervor and dedication to the lakes was really quite inspiring. There were days when I was busy and had stress about fitting in the calls or grant work, but the participant’s passion about their lake homes and being a part of nature, instead of making nature fit their needs, always made me smile and warmed my heart,” she noted.
On the consequential importance of the service she and her fellow CLPA members provide for the community, Olson stated:
“I love the environment and protecting it in whatever little way I can. The beauty of nature can provide us a sanctuary of escape from our hectic daily lives. A walk in nature can be one of the best mental health exercises in which one can partake. Nature can help us maintain some semblance of sanity in this crazy world, the least we can do is help mend some of the damage we have done to her.”
While Minnesota may have their aquatic pride plastered across license plates, nothing can top the tireless dedication that Wisconsinites devote to our lakes and wildlife.
As world renowned poet William Wordsworth once said, “A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable.”